As the world reopens (sorta)... 

Well, it's been one helluva year, and 2021 is slowly getting better. Emphasis on "slowly." Remember my previous 2011 post "I Want MY Country Back?" Well, first in 2016 we lost it, but finally on Jan. 20 of this year we got it back--contentiously, at times violently, and with our democracy ever more fragile. I am cherishing what we have, because due to the rise of "alternative facts"-worshipers and conspiracy-theory "Q-koos" (feel free to use that epithet, I won't copyright it), we may lose it again come Nov. 2022. We hold the Senate by a single vote--that is, VP Harris' role as tiebreaker--otherwise, it's 50-50. And our robust 2018 House margin is now razor-thin, in the single digits (with the death of yet another Democratic member).

The GOP is united in fealty to its base; but we're splintering once again into the moderates who urge Biden to employ his renowned bipartisanship skills (egged on by so-called GOP moderates who have no intention of doing the same) and progressives who want it all and want it now. Of course, Democrats urging bipartisanship are Charlie Brown getting ready to kick a field goal (unable to try for a touchdown despite the progressives insisting on a "Hail Mary" pass all across the field from their own 10-yard line), while the GOP is Lucy, who will yank away the football at the last minute. 'Twas ever thus. This is the reason so much legislation gets reduced to taxing-and-spending so it can be pushed through via budget reconciliation--it's the only way around the GOP filibuster (which dooms attempted bipartisanship and progressive idealism alike). Sigh--where have all the liberals gone?

Of course, 2020 was also the year of lost jobs, sports, events, trips, dreams, plans--and, tragically, friends & loved ones--as well as at least 10% of restaurants. At its least onerous, it was still "the year without gigs" for those of us who couldn't figure out (or afford) the tech necessary to livestream. Chicago is entering what looks like a third wave (and the nation a fourth) of the pandemic, but because of the availability of vaccines, mitigations haven't been tightened since they were loosened in March. But because they were (carefully) loosened, and we oldsters got ourselves vaccinated, too many Gen-Z'ers & millennials thought the worst was over and began gathering, partying and traveling like mad--and so sprang up the viral variants. The variants are definitely "zoonotic:" they're spread via "party animals." The first wave hit the elderly & boomers the hardest--just the opposite now.

This is why I'm still not posting any live in-person gig dates. I will be webcasting a solo concert Apr. 23 (with live Zoom "reception" afterward) I recorded at Wild Hog in the Woods up in Madison a couple of weeks ago (when all concerned were fully-vaccinated and it was safe to cross the IL/WI state line)--it is for the benefit of the Wil-Mar Community Center, which not only hosts Wild Hog but also food pantries, afterschool & senior programs among other wonderful services for the people of Madison. "E-doors" open at 7:15, and the show runs 7:30-8:30. Donations are strongly encouraged via an onscreen link. Details are at I'm donating my share of the online proceeds to the Wil-Mar Center. And the Gebhard Woods Dulcimer Festival (second weekend in June) will be virtual once again this year--only there will be entire sets recorded by the performers specifically for the festival (Andina & Rich recorded ours live up in Madison too) instead of single-song video clips contributed by the artists from their archives. And there will be live Zoom workshops--I'll be teaching a couple from my living room (unlike a concert, they don't require broadcast-quality production values). And I'll be watching & listening, just as I would under a tent or in a meadow--just mute your mic when it's not your turn to play or talk.

There's a bit less of me than there was a couple of years ago: due to doctors' orders, I shed (on purpose) over 50 lbs. (as of today). I'd actually continued losing weight during the first months of the pandemic, eventually losing a total of >65; but stress over my health (see below), current political & societal events (where do I start, so I won't), and then being unable to exercise after straining my back...followed by Chiberian Snowmageddon. Hence, my "quarantine 15" occurred fairly recently, and I'm slamming the brakes on it. I've spent quite a bit on a new, much smaller-size wardrobe (after Marie Kondo-ing the hell out of my closets), and I want to keep fitting into it. So back to "dead animals & leaves" near-keto it is.

Those online shows will go up on my calendar shortly. Meanwhile, I did get to be in a few numbers in the abbreviated online 2020 Bar Show "Change of Venue." Alas, due to the vagaries of current events rendering them inappropriate or irrelevant, some numbers were up for only a short time before being taken down and others never did get put up.  Next year, in Jerusa....uh, the Merle Reskin stage. "Kinahurrah," as my splash page music video goes.

And if you haven't been to my CaringBridge page lately, I can tell you that my treatment for ocular melanoma (diagnosed in July & treated in August 2020) went well--I had internal ("plaque brachytherapy") radiation, and things are holding steady. In this case, "no progression" is a good thing. Still have no idea how I got it--it's extremely rare (1 case per 4 million people), and the only risk factor I had is being somewhat fair-skinned. No freckles, no blue or other light-colored eyes, and blonde is not my natural hair color (well, not since I was a toddler, but you probably figured that out). Never went out in sunlight without polarized shades, either. And it had nothing to do with my breast cancer (knock wood, still "no evidence of disease" on that front...pun intended). I'm getting updated genetic testing this week to find out if I have a gene for it, since my testing in 2015 revealed no mutations. 

So if you haven't done so already, roll up your sleeve (you need only one arm per dose) and get vaxed. For those idiots out there who still believe that the vaccine is a plot by Bill Gates to inject a microchip, that's ridiculous! I got the Moderna vaccine, which contains the George Soros chip--far superior and kosher to boot!

(Oh, and I got the second of a matched set of knee replacements in 2013. Between those and the hardware in my R leg & L arm from various orthopedic repairs, I'm tons of fun at metal detectors). 

Long time no blog part 2: the political 

Been a long time since I last updated this blog; I see the previous post was “Part 1: the Personal,” so I’m following through on my promise to address current events, “the political.” This has been a year of crises, tragedies, and terror…but enough about Donald Trump.

Seriously, though—there is so much to be said about this election and various other events that I’ve noticed the emergence of a pattern of modern mythology. (I might veer into mentioning candidates, but I will try to be a bit more, uh, general). So let me be a modern myth-buster.

MYTH #1: "Taxes are crushing us.” No, they’re not—especially if you are wealthy or a corporation. The top tax bracket is lower than it’s ever been—for both individuals & corporations. There are several sub-myths as well. First, the myth of “the death tax,” especially its “devastating impact on family farms.” What a load of caca de vaca. Only multimillion-dollar estates (>$5.6M) are subject to the estate tax, and very few of those are family farms—which for the most part carry heavy debt that nearly matches or exceeds their assets. Second, that taxation is evil. No, taxes are the rent and the dues you pay to live in this society. You don’t have a right to withhold part of your rent because you disapprove of the luxury car or the dream vacation that your landlord bought, or of your condo association dues because you wanted a bigger pool instead of a new roof. Third, that taxes on sugary drinks are racist and impair your freedom to rot your kids’ teeth. When Pepsico or Coca-Cola raises its prices, do you scream bloody murder? No, you pony up and keep buying the stuff. Taxes on soda, sports & energy drinks and sweetened teas add less to the cost of the stuff than do bottlers’ or stores’ price hikes. And why should we have to endure crumbling roads & bridges, small business contractors getting stiffed by the state, pension funds into which workers have paid go belly-up, social safety nets slashed and healthcare costs rise just so you can give yourself and your kids diabetes, fatty livers and tooth decay as cheaply as possible?

MYTH #2: “We mustn’t hurt the job-creators.” This goes hand in hand with myth #1—big business is paying lower taxes than at any time since WWII. Certainly lower than when St. Ronald unveiled his trickle-down policy in 1981. Yet where are the jobs? Which brings us to:

MYTH #3: “Obama took away our jobs.” No, your venerable “job creators” did. In the name of boosting the bottom line for shareholders (submyth: “All hail the shareholders”), big business set about cutting expenses to the bone in order to maximize already-record profits. Your manufacturing jobs went to India & China—not because of free trade (as Genghis Don would have you believe) but because their citizens are willing to work for a fraction of what even the lowest-paid Americans get, without fringe benefits or even legal protections (such as those against sweatshops, workplace dangers, sexual harassment and child labor). And even if by some miracle of conscience (or, more likely, the threat of penalties or the promise of tax breaks) those jobs return, they will no longer pay what they used to or carry the same benefits or protections as in the past…because unions have been gutted like fish and crushed like paper cups. Finally, there is a significant number of those jobs that will never, ever return, because of automation. (But the right-wing never mentions that).

MYTH #4: “All lives matter.” Well, all things being equal, they do. But all things are still not yet equal. Police still don’t value black lives equally, so black lives need to matter more than they currently do. Our police forces need to be demilitarized, stripped of surplus military stuff like armored personnel carriers and the like. They need to, as almost all their mottoes say, protect and serve—not occupy and rule. They enforce the law, but they are not the law. And yes, blue lives matter, too—but get real: more innocent African-American civilians are killed by police than vice versa. Far, far more. The recent tragedy in Dallas was due to an assassin—not an entire ethnic group. Submyth: “stop & frisk works.” No, it doesn’t. It’s unconstitutional. And it gives innocent black males arrest records they don’t deserve; and as for the guilty, they are given harsher penalties and longer sentences than whites committing exactly the same offenses.

MYTH #5: “Career politicians are ruining our country (state, city, etc.).” You know how someone gets to be a “career politician?” By getting elected to and staying in office, over and over again….because people vote for them. Why? Because for the most part, they do the jobs they were elected to do, and for the most part they get better at it the more experience they amass. You know what you get when you elect the inexperienced to high office? Incompetence. (Case in point—a certain Gov. who never even ran for grade school class President, can’t tell the difference between running a state and running a private-equity vulture-capital firm, nor the difference between gov’t and business budgets, and can’t understand why the legislature doesn’t want to pass his agenda. Hey, America—don’t say IL didn’t warn you). 

MYTH #6: “The only patriotic values are Conservative.” (Corollary—“liberals don’t value freedom or liberty”). Take a look at the names of various super-PACs: “Freedom Works.” “Liberty Principles.” “American Crossroads.” All code names for conservative Republicans. (We liberals are stuck with variations on “Progress” and the like—while we weren’t watching, the GOP has co-opted and copyrighted/trademarked every patriotic buzzword). Watch and listen to local and state campaign ads. Invariably, when you hear buzzwords like “career politicians,” “(name of your state capital),” “taxes,” “out of touch,” and “doesn’t care about us,” you will, at the end, hear that the ad was paid for by “Liberty Principles” or such—and though the ad is for one candidate or against another, that the payor “is not connected with any candidate.” Right….far right...

MYTH #7: “They’re all the same, so vote your conscience.” Well, guess what? Not only aren’t they “all the same,” your conscience (or a “protest”) never gets elected and has no power to achieve any of your goals. And if you vote your conscience or for a third party candidate (I like to call that a “boutique vote”), you are likelier to help elect the person who is likelier to set back your desired agenda for decades, wiping out whatever progress was made.

MYTH #8: “News should be fair & balanced.” No—contests (and game-day weather) should be fair. Tires, budgets and minds should be balanced. News should be factual, and presented in a neutral manner—which is not the same as either “fairness” or “balance.” Facts are messy. Stuff happens as it happens. Spin it all you want during op-eds and interrupt-and-scream-at-each-other panel shows. But the news is the news, no matter whom it flatters or casts in a bad light.

And speaking of interrupt-and-scream-at-each-other panel shows, we all know which side does the liar’s—uh, lion’s—share of interrupting and screaming (hint: it rhymes with “disturbative”). So if I ever decide to host a political panel podcast, I am serving notice: interrupt once and you get warned. Interrupt twice and I cut your mic off. Interrupt three times and…..I hear Trump may be looking for a new campaign manager….


Long time no blog? Part I: the personal 

Yikes--has it really been two years since I posted an entry here rather than in the “news” section? (At least I finally updated that, as well as my calendar--where new dates are popping up again like the chives and crocuses in my garden; unlike the latter, which have been quashed by critters and caprices of winter, I hope nasty little life surprises don’t snatch them away like they did late last spring). 

If you hadn’t checked back on this site (or Facebook, Acoustic Guitar Forum, Bonesmart or BCO) in the past couple of years, my family & I have had some medical adventures beginning last May. First, Bob--my husband of nearly 45 years--went in for his routine triennial colonoscopy and came out with a perforated bowel requiring three hospitalizations and major surgery; then as soon as he’d healed, his hernia blew and needed to be repaired. He was out of action on & off till well into July. On top of that, his first CT scan in May showed a 2cm lung lesion which was recommended to recheck in Nov. Just before the surgical sideshow began, we had booked a Mediterranean cruise on the Viking Star for December. We decided that even if the recheck were to reveal the worst, waiting one more month to start treatment wouldn’t have made a difference and we agreed that we’d need that “last fling."

In mid-August, I had my routine annual mammogram. (What is it with us and “routine” screenings anyway)? The very next morning I got an e-mail in my patient portal inbox that they found a “focal asymmetry” in my right breast that wasn’t visible in my 2014 or 2015 mammograms. I went back a week later (first opening they had) for a diagnostic spot mammo & ultrasound--which found a “suspicious" 7mm blob. A biopsy was indicated. Unfortunately, I had to wait two weeks--I had already booked a trip to New Orleans for both an entertainment law CLE course and a gig, then flew to Phila. where my singing partner Stephen picked me up to drive to a gig near Scranton, then home to host the CSC writers’ round stage at the Fox Valley Folk Festival. The radiologist & nurse navigator said it was safe to wait and also advised I experience the joys of that trip “just in case.” I had the biopsy the day after Labor Day, and the very next evening learned I had grade 2 invasive ductal carcinoma: looks like I beat Bob in the race to the Big C. No family history (and I was already past middle age when diagnosed), but since I’m Ashkenazi I had genetic testing for the BRCA and other mutations. Luckily, the fault, dear Brutus, was neither in my stars nor in my heredity--just plain “shit happens.”

Had a lumpectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy two weeks later, and the news was almost as good as it gets with a grade 2 breast cancer: clean margins, all 4 nodes negative for cancer, and estrogen/progesterone-positive/HER-2-negative status. The “almost” was that the tumor was 1.3cm, nearly twice as big as showed up on the ultrasound. So for ten days I sweated out the results of the OncotypeDX test, which would determine whether I’d need chemo, how well it’d work, and my 10-yr. survival chances with & w/o it. Luckily, my score was low enough that chemo wasn’t indicated. I also had a little setback when one of my incisions ruptured but suturing took care of that, and I had three weeks of high-dose partial-breast targeted external radiation which ended just before Thanksgiving. I had to give up being in the Bar Show this time (I wasn’t able to guarantee in advance I’d be strong enough to give it my all) but we did get to take that cruise! And in Nov., repeat CT showed Bob’s lung lesion had disappeared, replaced by a tiny little spot elsewhere in the lung that is also probably nothing (knock wood). I am now on at least 5 years--perhaps as long as 10--of a drug called letrozole that prevents my body from making any more estrogen, so that any rogue cells leftover from my estrogen-dependent tumor will starve to death. 

But because of all this I had to cancel a raft of gigs and trips near and far--first to be there for Bob and then for my surgery, & recovery, to be close enough to home not to miss appointments and treatments, and to not bite off more than my stamina could chew. Was able after surgery to play in Rockford and Iowa City (FARM and a gig) plus lead a circle in Downers Grove, then last month up in Madison. We were supposed to play in Wauconda but the weather (subzero wind chills) had other ideas--it’s been postponed, and hopefully Mother Nature will behave herself this time so folks can get out safely to see us perform. We’re carefully adding shows as I’m slowly confirming I can do them. (I did develop mild lymphedema from that sentinel node biopsy and radiation, but it doesn’t affect my playing or singing). We’d have more gigs, except that Stephen’s main family income derives from his music so he’s doing a lot of solo touring (primarily at senior centers, where his bass-baritone and extensive repertoire of early 20th-century pop songs and jokes resonate with the elderly female clientele). Though at 65 (yup, I’m now on Medicare) I’m not about to launch a parallel solo career, I am branching out to do more solo shows both here and further afield. And unless our touring interferes, I’m back in the 2016 Bar Show. 

And speaking of “Bar,” I’m still keeping my law license alive (more on that in a bit), so for the CLE required, I’m heading to London, Lausanne & Paris next month with the Chi. Bar Assn.  On the family-travel front, we’re going back to Italy in July (hot, I know, but the only time we could book a stay in a Tuscan villa for the middle of the trip) because on our cruise we learned that there’s no such thing as spending too much time in Rome. Maybe we can squeeze in Florence, too.

So all of this has given me a new perspective on life and living. To-wit:

1. Never turn down an opportunity to pursue your muse and your pleasure. You never know when fate will throw nails onto the road to shred your tires. If the worst happens, there is no dishonor in cancelling (and if you were smart enough to buy the appropriate insurance, no financial penalty either).

2. Cherish whomever and whatever you love. You can’t have them forever--either they will eventually be taken from you or you from them--and we can never know for sure how far away “eventually” will be. Especially the “whom:” things can be replaced, experiences sometimes replicated, but family (human or animal) and friends are irreplaceable--and memories are not a substitute for their presence.

3. Some problems are crises and some are mere annoyances--nothing like a life-threatening experience to help you realize just how many are the latter. 

4. Don’t catastrophize, but still be prepared. I almost lost Bob during his first hospitalization, neither of us are getting any younger, and in case the worst happens I want to be able to have my own source of income so as not to deplete savings or depend on Social Security (and hopefully to leave something over for Gordy once I’m gone). So that’s why, even though I’m currently retired from actively practicing law, I still keep my law license current. I get to use it occasionally to help out friends and do pro bono work, and if it comes to that I can earn some money beyond the dozens of dollars there are to be made in folk music.

5. Never be too proud or private to accept a helping hand...or a hug. And never be too selfish to reciprocate. Always be there for friends & loved ones who may find themselves in a situation similar to what you were able to overcome--and your advice and moral support is as important as your services and financial assistance.

5. Current events affect us all--from the world to the nation to your community to your own personal situation. But your family, friendships and health are far more important. It’s okay to be aware of the world and to try to the best of your ability to make it a better place. But the people in your life are so much more than their political and religious philosophies--don’t let your differences shut them out of your life.

Speaking of current events, I have a lot to say about that, and I will in Part II. 


The best is the enemy. No, not just of the good…but of everything worth pursuing. Or is it?

Recently, there was a spirited discussion on a folk music listserv about the merits of talent-buyers using a particular electronic-press-kit-parking/gig-listing website as their gatekeeper—at a cost to the artists both of membership and in most cases, per-application fees for gigs and contests. Recently, the efforts of and services rendered by the site had begun to deteriorate severely, to the detriment of all, but especially of its artist clients.

As one might expect, arguments quickly lined up both for and against the practice of using said site. Predictably, it was predominantly artists who were against it (as were some venues); and almost all those who defended it were on the talent-buying side: festivals, contests, a few concert series.

All but one, that is. Canadian singer-songwriter John Wort Hannam, after running up against the proverbial brick wall with the site, wrote that he wondered whether the problem lay not with the marketplace or its gatekeepers, but instead with whether he “was simply not good enough” and needed to go back and “woodshed."

That cacophony you hear? It’s the collective sound of thousands of guitar strings pinging violently as they are snipped under tension, of thousands of guitars being smashed, of thousands of heads banging against walls, of millions of pages of printed songs being shredded and of thousands of singer-songwriters strangling themselves with their computers’ USB cables in frustration. For Hannam is among the finest and award-winning writers and most compelling performers in folk music today. He plays venues and consistently places high in contests many if not most of his contemporaries can only dream about (and pray to access). If he is questioning his talent and competency, what about the rest of us further down the folkie food chain, struggling to earn minimum scale or even break even on tips?

Then there’s actor-writer B.J. Novak. You probably know him as Ryan, a modern-day Sammy Glick among the fictitious Dunder Mifflin staff in the hit American version of the long-running sitcom “The Office;” he was also its executive producer, major writer and occasional director.  Recently, he released his first collection of short stories, “One More Thing.” It immediately became a best-seller in hardcover, electronic and audiobook versions.

Funny thing about first-time best-selling print authors, especially those who’ve made their mark in another endeavor (and don’t use ghostwriters): we all—readers and aspiring authors alike--approach them with special scrutiny, even skepticism. We’re all impressed, surprised perhaps, at their ability to string together words on paper with such skill—even though their facility with language was probably the underlying talent that most likely made them famous. In Novak’s case, however, not only is his wordslinging prowess a given; but his imagination is prodigious. Depressingly prodigious, in fact. Were he alive today, Kurt Vonnegut might well have wept over the amazing range of concepts of Novak's pieces, short and long. What aspiring prose writer would be blamed for throwing in the towel after reading Novak and resigning him/herself to lowering one's literary career trajectory—or opting for another endeavor entirely?

Which brings me to that hoary old maxim “the best is the enemy of the good.” How many times have we been soothingly told that when we come in second….or last…in a talent or songwriting contest, in failing to land a coveted club or concert gig or festival slot, or just plain losing out on a job opportunity in general? Meant to console us, to encourage us to dust ourselves off and try again, it usually has just the opposite effect:  all we hear is that we are not “the best” and turn a deaf ear to (or refuse to believe) the “good” part.  And we in the Boomer generation grew up hearing that old saw far less often than we did Vince Lombardi’s “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing;” making “it’s how you play the game” ring hollow and meaningless.

But what kind of a world would it be if only the “best” were allowed to work, perform, or play? What would become of the rest of our society—especially the vast majority who’ve been exhorted all our lives to be “the best we can be,” emphasis on “we?"   And think about it—you want to see a flick, listen to music, attend a concert, dine out. Do you say, “If this year's ‘Best Picture’ isn’t playing or is sold out, I won’t go to the movies. If I have no Grammy winners in my music collection, I’ll sit in silence. If Paul Simon or Joni Mitchell aren’t playing at my coffeehouse or U2 at my local arena, I’m staying home. And if I can’t get a table at Per Se or Alinea, I’ll fast?”  

Of course not. Think about it. I’d venture to guess that every one of you who is a musician has at least a few fans who are eager to see you and who have your CDs or mp3s in rotation in their cars or smartphones—even if Lady Gaga or Coldplay are among their favorites. Every one of you who’s ever had your prose, poetry or fiction published has readers eager to read what you have to say—even if they also read best-sellers and classics. Every chef and line cook has people who look forward to savoring their latest creations, even if they dream of eating at (or have even eaten at) multi-Michelin-star awardees. 

I'm reminded of the protagonist of the late Harry Chapin's poignant story-song "Mr. Tanner." Tanner was a dry-cleaner who loved to sing, and whose friends, family and customers delighted in hearing his baritone as he worked the conveyor, hanging and retrieving the garments in in his shop. Until some suggested he start concertizing, he had no idea how talented he was--he knew only that singing completed him. So he rented out N.Y.C.'s Town Hall (second only to Alice Tully or Carnegie) and staged a recital. Despite the audience's applause, professional critics' appraisals ran from tactful to scathing--one even suggesting he seriously consider a different career path. The song ends with him never singing another note....except late at night, when he was sure he was all alone. I hope the song was entirely fictitious, because it'd have been a shame if the real Mr. Tanner abandoned the music that so delighted both him and those around him. The Mr. Tanners of the world far outnumber the Pavarottis, Domingos, Grobans and even the Paul Pottses. Must the Tanners publicly silence themselves so that only the stars can take the stage? 

There are clubs, concert series and festivals whose bookers enjoy your performances and look forward to having you grace their stages—even if they’d jump at the chance to host Springsteen, Arlo or Mary Chapin Carpenter in the insanely unlikely event they show up with a hole in their schedules and a preference to play out rather than hunker down in a hotel room or tour bus. If you are a good writer, compelling & entertaining performer are you going to chuck it all just because there are famous geniuses out there who draw bigger crowds, higher gates and win bigger awards & prizes than you ever will?  Are you going to tell your fans to sit home and watch “Hoarders” because the biggest coffeehouse or most prestigious house concert series in town won’t book you? 

Look at all those Olympic team members who converged on Sochi last month—many delegations had more athletes than were medals (of any color) available in their events (not to mention other nations’ teams in those sports). How many of them turned down an Olympic berth saying “Screw it, I probably won’t even win a bronze so I might as well stay home?” (At least how many without pathological underlying ego issues)?

I think you know the answer. The world needs artists and artisans of all stripes, so long as they are competent and compelling.  If only the most illustrious are available to write and perform, what are the people who want to be entertained and wowed but not necessarily by celebrities supposed to do for entertainment and enlightenment?

No, it isn’t whether you win or lose. It may not even be how you play the game. It’s THAT you play the game. There are always those who want to see you “play it"—and those not yet exposed to you who will delight in having discovered you.

And that is what art is about.  The best need not be the enemy of the good—perhaps just the pot of gold at the end of its rainbow, no matter if you ever reach that rainbow’s end.

Knee blog: little milestones (kilometerstones?) 

Back to Bed came by on Friday and put the bed up on blocks; Carrie rearranged the items on our nightstands so we could switch sides. She brought my clothes back upstairs, and I laid in a supply of Norco for the upstairs bathroom. Have been sleeping up there since Friday night.  Tricky part is I'm supposed to make only one trip a day upstairs & downstairs (plus perhaps one pair of climbs outdoors)--so I have to get washed & dressed and then head downstairs and stay there till bedtime. The water pressure upstairs is great, but there's no shower bench and no hand-held showerhead. Downstairs I have those, but lousy water pressure--could barely rinse everything out of my hair.  So today I ordered a backless bench, a clamp-on tub grab bar and a shower step for upstairs.  I figure I can sit on the bench facing backwards to wash my hair.  Beats wrecking my back, knees & neck standing over the kitchen sink with the sprayer (which IS pretty powerful). 

I gave up on the rapid-release Tylenol during the day--instead, I am taking one 650 mg. extended-release "Arthritis Strength" Tylenol each at bedtime and after breakfast (or before PT).  I have continued my morning Celebrex. But last night I slept from 3 till 9am on one Norco, so at 9 I took my Norco; at noon one Celebrex and a "loading dose" of two 650-mg. time-release Tylenols.  I've managed to keep the pain from breaking through now, taking one Norco every 6 hrs., and went back to a single time-release Tylenol tonight.  In a little less than 2 hrs. it'll be time for my next Norco.  And at 9 I'll get up, take a Norco, wash, brush my teeth, change into exercise clothes, do about 10 min. on the cycle. and knock back one time-release Tylenol along with my Celebrex and a shot of espresso, then apply gentle heat till the PT gets here at 10am.

Friday we got to 120 degrees of flex (measured this time--he brought the goniometer) and began working on building my left quad up again.  (That neuropathy is a bear when I first get up after sleep or a nap).  Ominously, I have begun feeling some lateral posterior pain in my left knee--in addition to the medial condyle pain I've always had.  All things being equal I could turn around and get the left TKR done whenever, but all things are NOT equal: my home help availability is spotty unless I enslave my son Gordy; I have that cruise coming up and performance commitments till mid-Feb., and we HAVE to get our albums recorded by then.  Most of all, Northwestern Memorial is not fully "in-plan" for my insurance, so it only covered 60% (sticking us with >$27K out of pocket).  Dr. W. goes on staff at Evanston North Shore (which is fully in-plan, covered at 80%) this summer. I was hoping that my unloader brace would do the trick for my L knee--but now that the lateral condyle appears to be shot (and threatening to trash the L lateral meniscus, which could result in arthroscopy), no point in shifting the weight via bracing.  I am hoping to stall via therapy, topical meds and careful support till Dr. W moves to Evanston.

John, my therapist, put in for 3 more sessions of home PT before I have to start going to ATI (which will pick me up & bring me home). Hope it's approved.  Meanwhile, need to talk to Dr. W's office about whether to switch from Celebrex to Aleve (which I am allowed to do tomorrow night) or take both, in order to further wean off Norco. If I'm still taking Norco in 2 wks, I won't be allowed to drive, which could wreck a whole lotta plans.

Went to Bob & Kathy's yesterday and ordered in Thai.  They gave me a pound of "Rise Again" blend coffee (named for the late Stan Rogers, roasted in--where else?--Nova Scotia).  Good stuff--it makes a nice shot of espresso, which is how I'll use it. Went out to Tiffin for dinner tonight.  To my chagrin, the chairs were low (the banquette was taken up by a large party) and the floors vinyl fake wood. So once I sat down, the chair dug into the vinyl and stayed there--moving was agony. We grossly over-ordered food and took most of it home.  Now I know why Type 2 diabetes is endemic in India--half the cuisine is based on potatoes & rice, which are very high-glycemic index. (Made me a regular gal, though).  

Knee Blog: staying a step ahead 

My decision yesterday to wean my Norco down from 1-1/2 #2s every 5 hours to a single #2 plus a single 500-mg. Tylenol on the same schedule was not a success.  It was sort of a smackdown by my pain, which sought to remind me that if I wasn't its proactive boss it would usurp the role.  Bob suggested that for the sake of my kidneys I should take the Tylenol only every 6 hours, certainly complicating my meds schedule and giving me one more reason to keep an eye on the clock. I began with the 7 pm dose (forgoing the Tylenol till bedtime), because I knew I'd be out and about (partly), walking the aisles at Target for an hour during the day. I was sore but not really hurting. Last night at midnight,  I took a Norco #2 and a rapid-release Tylenol.  I said my prayers and pulled the blankets to my chin (my A/C set at a pleasantly chilly 71).  I spent the night downstairs again--all my pillows and my blanket are down here, I need one hand free to hold the rail and the other my cane, so bringing them upstairs was out of the question, and Bob had been smoking out on the deck. (Yeah, I know--physician, heal thyself).  I knew if my bedding smelled like cigarette smoke I'd never fall asleep.

At barely 4 am, after having turned onto my right side, I awoke--knee throbbing, back aching, right hand twingeing (I think I slightly sprained it using it to brace myself as I correctly positioned my leg on the pillows to elevate it above my heart). I was shocked--most nights if I had to awaken (mostly for a bathroom break or if a cat unexpectedly decided to use me as a launch pad) it was usually after 5 or 6 (or even 7) hours since the last dose. Here it was barely 4 hours--and the Tylenol did no good at all (might the extra acetaminophen have even diluted the hydrocodone?). I realized that pride and machisma (if such an oxymoronic word exists) had let the pain get ahead of me.  I hadn't noticed during the day, because my morning Celebrex had taken some of the edge off the pain all day. (The 'scrip will run out just about the time I can start taking Aleve again). So a little past 4, I took a Norco and went back to sleep. I awoke at 9, but decided not to let my blood levels of Norco drop low enough for the pain to break through, so I took another and slept like a rock till nearly 11am. I took my morning meds (including the Celebrex) then.  I decided to split the difference: my next Norco was at 1:30 and the next one will be at 6pm. Maybe 4-1/2 hrs is the magic number. Maybe "every 4-6 hours as needed" means exactly that.  

After the agony I was in (despite the regional nerve blocks) the first few days post-op, the pain I'm in seems more like an annoyance.  I like having no pain at all, but I detest feeling sleepy and needing to nap. Most importantly, I need to be as pain-free as possible at the start of a PT session, because I know that my quads, hamstrings, groin and calves will be pushed to near exhaustion (the better to build the muscles and stretch the connectors) and getting that extra degree of flexion each session will not come without a fight.  If that means downing a cuppa joe before showering and getting into my workout clothes to counteract the fog, so be it.  Meanwhile, I can focus well enough to blog and answer e-mails, but complex drafting, editing and bylaw/regulation interpretation tasks fall victim to the fog.  Never mind trying to write songs.

Made my first scratch dish since coming home: bucatini all'amatriciana.  It almost came together, but for the fact that the tomatoes were underripe, I couldn't locate my red pepper flakes (dontcha hate it when someone messes up your nice anal retentive spice cabinet?) and I underestimated how long it would take the pasta to reach perfect al dente.  Package times LIE.  2 minutes past the "done" time it was the kind of "al dente" that sends dentists' kids to expensive colleges. Only a generous ladleful of cooking water and 2 minutes nuke time out of the skillet brought it all together to the right texture--by that time I'd been on my feet nearly 3/4 hr. and my knee let me know it. 

Matthew is alternately puking and begging for treats.  His vet appointment is tomorrow, thank goodness. He continues to break my heart by pleading for tastes of people-food, and it takes all the strength I have to refuse to give in while hoping he still knows how loved he is.

And I got another disappointment: I must continue to sleep downstairs for the time being:  I went up to lay out clothes for the morning and to my chagrin, saw that the bed is WAY lower than I remember it having been. (The daybed down here is the same height as my hospital bed). So I have to hope that Back to Bed still has those riser blocks in stock and can send someone here to install them.  And until Dr. W. or his P.A. says it's okay, I have to sleep in the opposite direction (pillow at foot of my bed, Bob smelling my feet) because the left leg has to be the outside one. Grrrr! Maybe Bob'll turn around too--but how'll we get to the phones (both sides), pager (his side) and alarm clock & remote (my side) in time? Turning the nightstands around would make it impossible for me to get into bed. We could switch sides, but then we'd have to switch nightstand stuff too.....and the location of the jacks & outlets makes that impossible. (Not to mention that, as did his father before him and does our son after, he hates change and might inadvertently out of force of habit get into the wrong side of the bed & fall asleep before I get there).   Logistics are a bitch.

Knee blog: a little more clarity 

Well, the PT came over today. Took awhile to make progress, due to not having a session over the weekend, but with a lot of sweat and pain we made it to 115 degrees of flexion while still maintaining full extension.  Got SOME answers--basically, that everyone heals at their own rate. Some folks at this point are still on Oxys along with Norco at this point; a minority are toughing it out with Extra Strength or Arthritis Formula Tylenol (actually, generic, since brand name Tylenol's been withdrawn from sale for awhile); the average seems to be some degree of opioid--at least prior to a PT session--for 6 weeks.  I am lucky in that the pain doesn't keep me awake, nor does it awaken me.  So we've decided that 1 Norco 2 (10 mg) every 5 hours should be okay; if it doesn't take enough edge off the pain, I can add one acetaminophen (preferably 325mg, which is what is in a Norco 1 or 2, but nobody seems to be carrying anything but 500-650mg., non-splittable; the 650s are sustained release designed to be taken 2 twice a day) every 5-6 hours or one 650 on awakening and one on retiring.  No Aleve, Voltaren gel or Flector patches yet--not till the Coumadin is officially out of my system on July 23. And that's when I do my first outpatient PT session at ATI--which'll be more challenging. They have a shuttle to pick me up, though--and if its steps are too steep they'll reimburse me for taxis. 

I am noticing that as my right knee gets stronger I notice the left one more--I'm almost tempted now to alternate stairs going up as long as I have a rail and cane.  My PT says it's perfectly fine to walk around the house on a single level without the cane as long as I keep my gait normal; a daily outdoor walk (about .1-.2 mi roundtrip, which is what I did yesterday) is okay so long as I use a cane or a Rollator, and don't attempt to cross a major street--at the speed I can comfortably walk, I'd never make it across safely before the light changes.  And Bob says "frequent short walks" means get up and go to the bathroom, answer the phone, go to the kitchen to get water, make coffee or cook every hour or so.  The PT says I can climb stairs "as tolerated." So today, after my luxury shopping excursion to Tar-zhay (Carrie drove), which required stairs out of and back into the house but afforded me the luxury of using a shopping cart as a giant walker, I will have Bob schlep my pillows and blanket back upstairs so we can sleep together.  (Just sleep--no you-know-what till 6 weeks out. Imagine--I can drive AND cavort in the back seat on the same target date).  We both miss cuddling--but we're both gonna have to break out the earplugs again. 

One piece of sad news: Funny Bunny, the official rabbit of the 800 block of N. Laramie, was killed by a hit-and-run driver yesterday.  She was the closest thing Carrie, my assistant, had to a pet--in fact, she was so docile and people-friendly she had to have been a house pet before her outdoor life.  Everyone on the block made sure to grow a little lettuce or parsley for her.  She had been putting on some weight; one neighbor found she'd started making a nest for an anticipated litter.  So it's bad enough she was killed--but so were her babies.  Whoever hit her and kept going, I hope you don't sleep well for a LONG time.  I'll swear under my breath now when I see a squirrel nibbling my tarragon or eyeing the blossoms on my tomato plants, but swearing's as much as I'll do.  We have rabbits--but they don't seem to care about my herb garden. (I draw the line at cockroaches though--PETA would be disgusted by my attitude but I am more disgusted by roaches).

I made a courageous and for me painful decision today: I bought two more pair of shorts.  My scar no longer scares little kids (although my thighs still might), but it looks like we're in for a VERY hot summer. (100 again tomorrow--perfect day for indoor exercise).  Treated myself to a small iced light skim mocha--saved the cup in the freezer since ice is at a premium. My icemaker threw a hissy last night, in mid-party, and I've been rationing the few cubes I had put in a plastic bag.  For the first time in years, I am filling ice trays.  (So much with using my Polarcare cryo-cuff machine--I'm sticking with the gel packs). 

Yesterday, Gordy & Coco threw a BBQ party.  Coco graciously walked to Metropolis (the quarter-mile walk might have been doable but for having to cross Broadway) and bought me half a pound of Red Line blend.  Ah, the joy of pulling a good (though not "God") shot, as well as playing barista for guests once again! This morning I toasted some tomato foccaccia; tonight I made myself a (non-flattened) Panino Caprese: griddled half a mini-sesame baguette, then filled it with two thick slices of heirloom tomato, about an ounce of fresh mozzarella, basil leaves from my garden, a flick of fleur de sel from the grinder, and my very best olive oil and balsamico.  Washed it down with homemade seltzer.  I miss wine--but only really good wine. Which I'll be able to taste at the next B'way Cellars Winemaker Dinner a week from Wed.  (Still have a shrunken stomach--so I'll have to apologize for neither cleaning my plates nor draining my glasses).

Off to make that one last skinny latte.

Knee blog: second weekend home 

This has been a weekend of perplexity.  There is such a thing as too much information, especially when so much of it is contradictory. "Rest up, save your strength," say some.  "Make sure to prop ice your knee and your foot up higher than your heart," say others. I DARE you to do anything constructive or interesting--such as read, go online, talk comfortably on a phone or watch any TV not mounted high up on a wall when you're flat on your back. "Don't spend too much time sitting." Really? How much is too much? How long at a time? How long is too long? Sitting in a restaurant for the duration of a meal? Riding in a car? (That was what made me forgo a proffered lift to the Woodstock Folk Festival). Plowing through e-mails? "Frequent short walks are key." How frequent? Every few minutes? Every hour? How short is short--am I supposed to pace aimlessly around the first floor of my house or are necessary trips to kitchen or bath sufficient? "Take only one trip up and down the stairs a day." So I'm still sleeping on my first floor because my walk around the block requires descending and ascending my front stairs--and wearing only what clothes and underwear (mostly tees, shorts and sweats) I have stashed downstairs.  I took my first walk around the block today--not quite "around," since it's double the length of the typical long street block--and it took so much out of me that I had to nap upon my return.  I'd been proud of ambulating around the house without my cane...until I re-read my surgeon's advice to keep using assistive devices until I could walk painlessly without a limp when unaided.  (Especially when I am also told to expect some pain for the next few months, even after being cleared to drive).  I hadn't read that far at first--I was just so delighted to not need a walker and not be in constant moderate-to-severe pain.  "Don't let the pain get ahead of the meds." "Start weaning yourself off opioids." Really? How fast to wean? How long a dosing interval is too long to stay ahead of the pain?  I hate feeling sleepy and dozey, but I hate staying alert & unmedicated for fear of too much pain.  How much pain is too much pain? Compared to how I felt in rehab I'm much more comfortable; compared to in the hospital my pain's barely a 1 or a 2, but it's there--especially when doing maximum flex, or the muscle pangs when the neural pathways in both legs reawaken and it shoots to a 7-8. "Take 1-2 every 4-6 hours as needed for pain," says my Norco prescription.  Gee, that helps.  Started out in rehab on 2 every 4 hours round the clock (even being awakened to take them--though often an hour or even two late), transitioned to 2 every 5 hours (except not to wake up to take them--and then when I sleep 8 hrs. between doses I'm chided that it's "too long"), then 1-1/2 every 5 hours. What's next? Stretch the interval to 6 or drop the dose to 1? Or, if I stretch the interval to 6 hrs, go back to 2; or if I drop the dose, shorten the interval back to 4 hrs.? "Sleep on your side with a pillow between knees but keep legs straight." "Bend your legs when on your side to avoid back pain."  (How am I supposed to rehab if my back goes out)? "Don't put any pillows under your knee." (What am I supposed to do about that horrid hamstring-stretch pain I get when I elevate "properly," making rest anything but restful?) "It's okay at this point to put a pillow under your knee." Everyone I consult--the vague instructions on my discharge sheet, my visiting nurse, my PT, my husband, all give conflicting instructions. I just want to get better, get off opioids but control my pain, and prevent blood clots (my Coumadin stops with this Thursday night's dose).  

It's the uncertainty that is almost as bad as the inconvenience, disruption of routine and pain.

Knee blog: Friday the 13th 

In less than half an hour, Fri. the 13th will be over.  It's been a suitably weird day.  I took my pain meds last night at 10:45 and fell asleep while watching a DVRed episode of "NYC 22." Turned off the TV to sleep, and then about 1 am Gordy came in from a long night of rehearsals and wanted to shoot the breeze. Fell back asleep about 2. Next thing I knew, Heidi jumped on my bed just as the insanely loud clock-radio-CD player Bobby had set as an alarm woke me 6:45. Ruh-roh:  I wasn't in a lot of pain (except for a bizarre shooting burning pain along my OTHER thigh, which happens if I sort of get pinned into my blanket while sleeping by Happy, the 16-lb. superkitten), but 8 hours between doses this early in the game is asking for it. So I took my Norco and fell back asleep...and didn't wake up till 11 am.  Took my regular morning meds & vites, had coffee and made breakfast: my first BLT in over a month. Trouble was, Matthew was watching eagerly, salivating and eyes widening as the bouquet of the bacon (gourmet foodie brand, no less) bloomed in the microwave. My heart ached as I realized I couldn't give him any. Normally, I'd make 4 slices and overstuff the sandwich, feeding him little bits of bacon that fell out of the sandwich. (Any kitty that doesn't like bacon is a pygmy Hasid disguised in a cat suit). He stood there, eyes pleading, tilting his head this way and that, forepaw held bent in the air just like the ceramic Japanese bobtail cat statues advertising sake at sushi bars. I told him it was breaking my heart to break his heart, but I didn't dare risk breaking his little kidneys any more than they are already. I felt like an axe-murderess. But it was a great sandwich. At noon I took my Norco.

Braved my first trip upstairs to use my balance-beam scale.  The morning of surgery I was 225, empty stomach, in my unde....TMI.   The day I left the hospital and checked into rehab (3 days later) I had so much edema that I weighed in at 234 (in shorts & tee, having eaten very little in the hospital). Last Thurs., upon leaving rehab, wearing shorts & tee, after 2 meals, I was back down to 225. Today? 216.5. My goal is to get down below 200 before the cruise Sep. 13.  Exercise and stopping coumadin (7/19, with it out of my system 7/23)--which means more green leafy veggies so I can cut back on carbs--will help. 

At 2 the PT called to ask if he could come over early, since it was starting to storm and he didn't want to get caught in it.  I quickly washed, dressed and followed his earlier advice to precede our session with a few minutes of moist heat to limber up the knee. It worked--we were able to get 114 degrees of flexion! Iced and tried to nap but had to go online to order groceries instead. Had some Greek yogurt/honey/granola (which I seem to like better now than ice cream or pudding). Took my Norco promptly at 5. Caught up on e-mails and did some online research, and then made myself dinner: the Copper River sockeye filet that had just about defrosted, one stalk of broccolini (more than that would've been too much vitamin K) and some multigrain country bread with French butter.  Marinated the salmon in a soy sauce/agave nectar/sesame oil/ginger mixture, nuked the broccolini, preheated the flattop and sprinkled it with a few drops of rice bran oil (which is low in vit. K, neutral in flavor and aroma and can take high heat). Put the fish on, enjoying the sizzle.  (The sounds and smells of cooking are almost as satisfying as the tastes and textures of eating).  Had the same steak knife out I'd used to pierce the seal of a vitamin bottle, so I rinsed it off and used it as a butter knife.

To my horror, I felt an ever-so-slight nick. I panicked and looked--at first, I didn't see blood, but I immediately tore off a piece of paper towel and applied direct pressure till I could find the bottle of alcohol gel sanitizer. Lifted the paper towel, on which there was a tiny blood spot, and squirted a dollop of alcohol gel on the nick. As I'd dreaded, the nick began to bleed again--and no amount (seemingly) of direct pressure could make it stop. It's not like I was dripping blood, but I am SOOO paranoid now about infection (which would require removal of the knee replacement) that in my mind it was tantamount to an accidental needle stick in an ER. (I know this is a little irrational, as whenever the nurses in the hospital did a finger-stick for blood sugar and the visiting nurse did one for my INR/pro-time all I'd get was a little alco-wipe). But I made Gordy bring me a band-aid and Bacitracin ointment.  I could swear I felt my finger pulsing beneath the bandage, which is silly, as I don't seem to have oozed through it.  Soldiered on and finished making dinner--damn, that was one PERFECT piece of salmon!

It was 10 pm, so I took my Norco and night meds, and realized why I was bleeding: yesterday was my last blood draw: 2.8 INR and 30.6 sec. pro-time, so my 3/4/3/4 Coumadin dose was cut back to 1mg last night and 3 each night through 7/19.  So I know the Coumadin is working. Only hope the alcohol-gel and Bacitracin are too.  

Anyway, my research indicated that alternating numbness/burning on my lateral left thigh is "meralgia paresthetica.", caused by nerve compression. In most cases, it's due to sudden weight gain (nope, not here) or too-tight clothes (again, floppy yoga pants). In mine, it was most likely caused by bearing more weight on my left leg than on my right. My body isn't used to having both legs the same length and both hips the same height--I'd had lousy gait for so long that transitioning to proper gait is gonna hurt for awhile.  After elevating my right leg for about an hour, I sat down to the computer again--and I felt a familiar pain down the front of my right shin. For the first time since a few months before surgery, the neural pathways along the scar were reawakening--and the muscles over the lower (remaining) hardware in my tibia were twitching. "Bad muscles!" I scolded (and made a mental note to make sure I wasn't skimping on my potassium--must eat more fruit). OK for now.

Other big news is that the Granville Red Line station reopened today.  Good thing (assuming I can soon walk that far and take the CTA instead of cabs), since the Thorndale station always creeps me out (there's been increased crime there lately). Still gonna sleep downstairs tonight--strict rules are no more than one staircase round trip till instructed otherwise. Want to be able I can answer the door quickly enough, which I can't if descending stairs one at a time with a cane. I hope I'm resting enough--if I lie down, feet elevated, as much as the websites are saying I should, I feel like a sleepy slug.

Knee blog: first week home! 

Thurs. 7/5

I get up the deck stairs and am greeted by Gordy and the kitties. Matthew tries to escape--he seems to be his old self again. Gordy informs me that Matthew is actually allowed to go out, nibble grass and roll in the schmutz for a few minutes, so long as he supervises.  Carrie shows me where everything is, and goes home till tomorrow morning.  Feels weird to be nearly alone. Make myself a cup of coffee--first in two weeks--and make a mini-pizza from foccaccia, basil and provolone. (The other 3/4 of it disappears before I can find it). Take a nap, open bills, and then Bobby calls, apologizing that he can't make dinner. So after waffling for half an hour, I order out from Mei Shung--wonton soup, basil shrimp, pupu platter, beef chow fun and a free portion of sweet & sour chicken.  It is so hot that the delivery guy is delighted to be invited inside to carry the food into the kitchen for me.  I realize I have grossly over-ordered, but it's not like I won't have help eating the leftovers. Have a small bowl of soup, brew a cup of oolong, and fill a lunch-size plate and am immensely satisfied. (Tricky to monitor the amount of green onions, bok choy and basil leaves, but as the nurse explained, consistency is key).

Fri. 7/6

I wake up at 10:30 (I slept like a baby, with the A/C blasting, and my full dose of Norco--2 x 10 mg every 4 hrs except overnight). The daybed is comfy, I'm not in much pain, I have a lot of DVRed episodes of "Jeopardy" left to watch before I nod off. I awaken surrounded by all three kitties. Tough to get comfy sitting up and using the computer, because the front room is small, the recliner rickety, the dining room armchair at the wrong angle vis-a-vis the TV, the ottoman the wrong height, and the comfy daybed conducive to lying down.  I go to the kitchen, fire up the stove, and fry myself one perfect free-range egg. The separate yolk and white is nearly too beautiful to eat. I cut off a hunk of crusty whole grain bread with cultured butter. I sit in the dining room to eat it, along with one good cup of coffee. The kids take on the entire cat-feeding task. I am grateful beyond words.

Things soon fall apart: Carrie can't come because Skip has fainted at his radiation treatment; he was very, very dehydrated and is too weak even to push his own wheelchair.  I realize by afternoon I haven't heard squat from the social worker about home nurse and PT visits, so I call.Of course, it's the first Fri. of the month and the exterminator comes (as she usually does when Carrie is not here). We have to keep the cats away from the sprayed areas for 2 hrs--harder than it sounds, especially with ltd. mobility. I call Rona on my cell, and of course that's when the landline phone rings: it's the home health care agency. It's still too awkward to use the laptop, so I go online mostly via cell and iPad.  I nibble on some leftover Chinese food, dress, call a taxi and head to the Old Town School for First Friday.

I am out! I am on my own! I can get around! (OK, with a cane, but that's beside the point). Never do connect with Lori, who skips the song circle for the concert (alas, the circle runs too long).  Small but great circle--with some formidable songwriting. Nonetheless, the comparatively simpler "Ballad of Ruby" (the story of my Taurus gone psycho) is a hit. (I have to borrow a guitar, since I'd have had balance problems bringing my own since I need to have one hand on the banister and one on my cane).  I flag down a cab easily out front and get home near midnight, exhausted but happy.

Sat. 7/7

I am awakened by Gordy coming in the door, returning from the vet with Matthew. Matthew has already gained a pound and a half.  I forego my coffee till after the nurse comes.  Wash up, change into exercise gear for the PT.  He is easygoing but firm--distracting me from my pain via conversation. We only get 95 degrees of flexion, but he says that's normal for the earliest days at home, especially without a warmup on the elliptical. He suggests we get the recumbent bike moved to a comfier cooler room. I have been pricing ellipticals, so we'll see.  

I have a gig coming up Monday, but my picking thumbnail had split Fri. morning, and a thumbpick felt last night as if I were using somebody else's thumb. Fortunately, my nail salon can take me late this afternoon.  And the heat wave has broken.I call a cab. It is a lovely drive, and surprisingly, not very crowded. This time it takes a silk patch, and we have to go back to gels rather than the non-chip gel polish "Gelish," which didn't quite hold up. I hail a cab out front, and it's the first Prius V I've seen "in the wild." The back seat entry is very roomy and not high up like a van, so I needn't ask to sit up front. This car is roomy, carries more than Steve's Forester, and gets the same fuel economy as my Fusion Hybrid. Alas, no AWD, or else I'd have Bobby all over it like white on rice (where does that expression come from anyway)?

Bobby calls, offering to take me out for a late dinner.  So we go to Calo.  Maitre d' sees me hobbling on a cane and seats us right away, welcoming me back effusively. I order a bone-in ribeye, Caesar salad and linguine aglio e olio.  I wolf down the Caesar (extra grape tomatoes, no croutons, dressing on the side), reveling in how wonderful fresh real veggies taste.  Even have an O'Doul's--which after over two weeks of enforced teetotaling (with three more to go till I'm off the coumadin) actually tastes like beer.  To my chagrin, I can manage no more than a couple of ounces of steak and a few forkfuls of pasta before I realize I am full.  I had practiced portion control in rehab (the lousy food made that pretty easy) and my stomach has shrunk. I rationalize that I'll have lots of leftovers to tap if I don't feel up to cooking.

Sun. 7/8 

Slow and lazy day. No PT visit or blood draw, so spend day catching up on correspondence and categorizing bills as payable and wait-for-insurance. Plow my way through backlog of TV episodes, do set list. Bobby goes out for brunch and haircut, then comes home. We go out to Broadway Cellars--walk in under my own steam, using cane but not leaning on it.  Glad to be back--though it sure feels weird not to be able to drink. (I have an Arnold Palmer, which beats a soda or a plain iced tea). We have the spiced carrot soup (still cool enough out to be able to enjoy it) and the Moroccan trout with green beans. Huge portion--again, make it through only half. Anthony brings over some complimentary peach sorbet--hadn't planned on dessert but it sure is luscious.

Mon. 7/9

Nurse comes in morning for blood draw, INR looks great.  Northwestern's coumadin clinic calls to tell me keep up the good work and keep alternating between 3 & 4 mg./day. My last day on that med will be July 19, and on July 23 I'll be able to drink, have spinach/cranberry juice/green tea/garbanzos (funny what foods I miss!), & start switching over to NSAIDs from opioids. Get ready for gig at Katerina's tonight--more nervous about logistics than usual, since cab dispatcher is telling me I have to have a special permit to sit up front. (I MUST sit up front because most back seats are too close to the front seat for me to swing my leg in; and those old Ford LTDs can't move the front bench seat back or forward so I can't ride in them at all.  Minivans & SUVs have too high a step up to the back seat. Most cabbies who drive Scions, minivans, Camrys and SUVs are fine with me sitting up front, but every now and then--as tonight--I get a petty bureaucrat dispatcher. I have to go through two layers of supervisors before they agree to send me a cab I can sit up front in--a Scion. Gordy is my roadie, carrying my stuff while I wrestle with the stairs & cane (and high curb up to the sidewalk at our destination--had forgotten about those double curbs along Irving Park). We're the first to arrive. I size up the small stage: that 10" height might as well be Mt. Everest without a step and rail. Will have to sit in front of it--but the chair is the wrong height and I can't keep my lap level to hold the dulcimer securely in place, even with the rubber lap pad.  And I can barely see my guitar neck, because the mic stand won't go low enough. So I have to compromise and go for the vocals first & foremost.  We solve to logistics by putting me on last in the first half and then lead off the second.  Am gratified to find two of my friends have come out to see me, and both are delighted to not have missed any of my songs.  I get fed (Greek pork stew & ginger ale--take home the leftover stew) and paid--way more than roundtrip taxi fares. A good evening all around even if I had to stand around longer than I wanted while Gordy flagged a taxi. (Flash never even took me off "hold" when I called). Fortunately, it was a Camry and the driver let me sit up front.  By the time we get home, it's been nearly 7 hrs. since my last painkiller dose, and was glad to be able to take another and go to sleep. Of course, I'm up late watching "The Newsroom" episodes Gordy recorded for me.

Tues 7/10

I sleep in: the nurse and PT aren't coming today.  On days like this I don't do much besides walk around the house, go online, wash, change, nap and watch TV. Hard to get comfy, as I can't let my knee stiffen either bent or straight. Lying down with leg propped is my default--good for icing and reducing the swelling. I can now sleep on either side and even lie prone for leg-raises. Cooking & making coffee are good exercise, since I can do my standing leg & knee lifts, toe raises, and lunges at the counter.  Still eating mostly leftovers for dinner, but Bobby brings me some pizza margherita from Calo.

Wed. 7/11

PT comes early this morning, which is why I sleep downstairs again--can't get down from the bedroom quickly to answer the door. We get to 110 degrees of flexion, after some painfully hard work. This may be my last week before I am discharged to ATI, which will pick me up and take me home.  I have a bagel & lox, which was only a mirage when I was in rehab. (Bagel, yes--but with fake grape jelly? No thanks).   Slathered with onion & tomato, dill & capers. I eat only half but it is still very satisfying. Earlier this week I made my first panino since before the surgery--focaccia was just this side of being toastable.  But ah--bell peppers, provolone, prosciutto, rosemary! All the flavors I so sorely missed in rehab.  

My goal, now that Bobby has his passport, is to book our premium air travel. (I need legroom, and plain old economy-plus won't cut it, since there's only 3-4" more legroom and no chance to get up and move around to prevent DVT). Bobby has agreed to ride in premium economy--a separate cabin, sort of like domestic first class but not as luxe or costly as int'l business class--with me if we can get it.  Tougher than we thought: 9/14 is a Fri. and no airlines with that class have any availability.  So I opt to leave Thurs. the 13th instead (Tues, & Thurs. are usually cheaper). We luck into World Traveller Plus on British Air--leave Chicago Thurs. evening at 5:30, arrive at Heathrow the next morning, and have a long enough layover there to get through Customs and have a midmorning snack before boarding our flight to Budapest. Alas, within Europe we can get only Economy, but we get aisle seats and those are short flights. We book an airport hotel in Budapest, where we can drop our bags and get a sightseeing tour. (Had we stuck with our original plan to leave Chicago on Fri. instead, all we'd see of Budapest is the bus ride from the airport to the ship and the short time before we set sail). Going back, it's an hour flight from Amsterdam to Heathrow (Economy again) but World Traveller Plus the rest of the way home.  Turns out to be cheaper--even with cancelling office on Thurs. and the night in Budapest--than leaving Fri. with me in Business and Bobby in Economy (and since 9/11, neither of us would have been allowed to visit the other's cabin). Bobby is delighted to get the chance to see Budapest and have some real Hungarian food--he wistfully mentions his mom would have loved that. And the hotel is 4.5 stars, free internet, non-smoking....and $85 for the two of us. That's less than I spend for a single room on the road in a Holiday Inn Express or Hampton Inn!

I also book the premium beverage package--so we get to try boutique and local wines, beers & spirits. We have to wait till we board to buy tickets to the optional Passau organ concert, which won't sell out.  Speaking of concerts, having cancelled Omaha (we couldn't get a gig en route to or from this time) frees me up to go to see Arlo Guthrie & Mary Chapin Carpenter at Ravinia with Bob on Aug. 19, so he tells me to try to exchange his ticket plus some $ for two pavilion seats. I am surprised to find he'd unknowingly bought the ticket from a broker--more than twice as expensive and much further back than the pair of pavilion seats I manage to score straight from the Ravinia box office.

Dinner is leftover linguine (Gordy ate the steak, trout and green beans) with leftover pork stew (and some diced tomato and peppers) atop it. Pretty darn yummy. And I sneak a Dove bar for dessert. Know what? Meh. I actually prefer Greek yogurt with nuts & honey. Fall asleep in front of the TV again.